Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Public Service Broadcasting

NOVEMBER 12, is observed as the Public Service Broadcasting Day in India to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s maiden visit to All India Radio (AIR) studio. On November 12, 1947, Gandhi spoke on radio to the refugees from Pakistan, stationed at the camp at Kurukshetra. It was Gandhi’s first and last visit to the studio of AIR. He was a communicator par excellence. He had always emphasised on the service and advocacy aspect of media, two important pillars of public service broadcasting.

Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is the broadcasting made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public. It is neither commercial nor state-owned. It is supposed to be free from political interference and pressure from commercial forces. Through PSB, citizens are informed, educated and also entertained. When guaranteed with pluralism, programming diversity, editorial independence, appropriate funding, accountability and transparency, PSB can serve as a cornerstone of democracy.

Public service broadcasting is based on the principles of universality of service, diversity of programming, provision for minority audiences including the disadvantaged, sustaining an informed electorate and cultural and educational enrichment. The concept was conceived and fostered within an overarching ideal of cultural and intellectual enlightenment of society. The roots of public service broadcasting are generally traced to documents prepared in support of the establishment of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) by Royal Charter on January 1, 1927. This corporation grew out of recommendations of the Crawford Committee appointed by the British postmaster general in August 1925. Included in those recommendations was the creation of a public corporation, which would serve as a trustee for the national interest in broadcasting. It was expected that as public trustee, the corporation would emphasise serious, educational and cultural programming that would elevate the level of intellectual and aesthetic tastes of the audience. The conception of the BBC was that it would be insulated from both political and commercial influence. Therefore, the corporation was a creation of the crown rather than Parliament and funding to support the venture was determined to be derived from license fees on radio (and later television) receivers rather than advertising. Within the governance of national authorities, public service broadcasting was recreated across western European democracies and beyond, in various forms. At the core of each was a commitment to operate radio and television services in public interest. The principal paradigm adopted to accomplish this mission was the establishment of a state-owned broadcasting system that either functioned as a monopoly or at least as the dominant broadcasting institution. Funding came in the form of license fees, taxes or similar noncommercial options. Examples of these organisations include the Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Radiodiffusion Television Francaise, Swedish Television Company, Radiotelevisione Italiana, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. While the ideals on which these and other systems were based suggested services that were characterised by universality and diversity, there were notable violations of these ideals, especially in Germany, France and Italy. In some cases the state-owned broadcasting system became the political mouthpiece for whoever was in power. Such abuse of the broadcasting institutions’ mandate made public service broadcasting the subject of frequent political debates.

Public service broadcasting, differs from broadcasting for purely commercial or political reasons because of its specific remit, which is essentially to operate independently of those holding economic and political power. Its agenda is different. Its objective is public service. It provides the whole society with information, culture, education and entertainment; it enhances social, political and cultural citizenship and promotes social cohesion.

Both AIR and Doordarshan have been envisaged to work as public service broadcasters. By and large both these organisations, especially AIR have managed to retain its character as public service broadcasters. Here is wishing them a long journey.

Dog

Looking at the way some of my friends love and care for their dogs and some youngsters cuddle street dogs, I always thought this. Now research proves me right. Humans have more empathy for dogs than people.

Why so? I put this question on my facebook wall and got several answers. Not surprisingly nobody questioned the result of the study. Almost all the respondents more or less accepted this.

Among the answers I got were: Dog is not selfish, human beings are. Dog is not treacherous, human beings are. Dogs are easily tameable, human beings are not. Dog is not dominant in nature, most of the human beings are.

As I went through the answers and saw the way pet dogs are pampered at some homes, I strongly wish to be reborn as one.

Life moves in circles

The first motorised vehicle that I bought for myself in 1989 was a second hand Luna. Gearless. Twenty eight years later I bought my first car. A Honda City Automatic. Gearless.
Life, it is often said moves in circles. The beginning and the end have uncanny resemblance in some form.

Tailpiece: Election Special

A drunk man at the voting booth  stands before the voting machine for ten minutes. The Polling Officer asks, what happened? Any problem?

The man answers, No problem with the machine. But there is another big Problem.

Last night somebody gave me two bottles and asked me to vote for a particular symbol. I can’t remember the symbol now.

(Courtesy: Social Media)

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Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, a small Central Odisha town. He also writes fiction.

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